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What would you like to know about your patient? And what’s keeping you from knowing it?

September 19, 2013

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern with some of our healthcare customers. First, they tell us that they are either struggling or taking too long to answer the basic questions, be it for metrics, or regulatory reports, or basic running of the hospital. Then, they start their big data and analytics journey, adopting information management tools and practices that help them integrate, manage, and analyze their organizational data. Next we see, not only is it easy to answer the basic questions, but now they can start answering the questions they dared not ask before.

For example, in a recent interview, Wendy Soethe, Manager EDW and Business Intelligence, Seattle Children’s Hospital, discussed how she revamped her information management system so that clinicians and hospital analysts can answer the basic questions. And with the newer and faster system they are also able to pose more complex questions to compare effectiveness of treatments or get a view into patients with similar illnesses. They have a more complete picture of their patients and what is happening in the hospital. From that, they are able to see new commonalities in treatment, develop new protocols, and make a difference in the care they are delivering to the children. [See her in this video, as well. And we previously wrote about the Seattle Children’s Hospital in this blog.]

For me, what is exciting, though, is that hospitals like Seattle Children’s are not just generating reports that give a snapshot of what is going on at the time. These hospitals are gaining insight informed by a broader view across the patient population (longitudinality) in an exploratory, hypothesis-free, way – a hallmark of the big data era.

Sure, you many ask what’s new, since we’ve always had large data sets of patient population information. What’s new is that the new big data tools are now able to manage and analyze these large data sets much more easily, rapidly and cost effectively. It is now easier for hospitals to explore these large data sets with complex analytics, to understand patterns such as the natural history of disease or population dynamics.

In turn, this cross-population view informs how the hospital chooses to provide the best possible care to an individual patient. That ability to see across the population provides invaluable insight into a single patient. Your patient.

In the video below, Chris Danzi, from Carolinas HealthCare, the 2nd largest health system in the US, discusses the path they are taking to use data to improve care. He mentions how they are looking forward to building that patient longitudinality, using analytics to not only gain insight into the patients, but also into the data quality along the way. And they are not only interested in the usual structured data, but also data buried in unstructured notes. Among the things they will do, they will use all this data to compare performance of staff against care system-wide guidelines. They also know that this data is key to understanding the root cause of different patient care outcomes.

It’s exciting to see hospitals eagerly diving into big data to provide better, more insightful care. Chris and Wendy are removing the technological barriers that typically keep their staff from knowing more about their patients. And both Seattle and Carolinas have gone beyond answering the required questions, and are enabling staff at their hospitals  to get the valuable insight they’ve been seeking about their patients.

What’s keeping your staff from knowing what they want to know about their patient? Let me know.

For more healthcare related blog posts, videos, white papers, infographics, visit http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/healthcare